. Recently, there has been an influx of illegal migrants into India after the military coup and subsequent crackdown in Myanmar. The current plight of the Myanmarese has been preceded by that of another group of Myanmarese, the Rohingya. Historically, India has witnessed an inflow of refugees from many neighboring countries.
The refugee issue poses a problem for the state as it puts an economic burden, may trigger demographic changes in the long term, and poses security risks as well. However, taking care of refugees is the core component of the human rights paradigm. Further, in any case, refugee flows to India are unlikely to end any time soon given the geopolitical, economic, ethnic, and religious contexts of the region. Hence, there is an urgent need today to clinically address the issue of refugee protection in India and put in place appropriate legal and institutional measures.
India’s Refugee Policy
- India lacks specific legislation to address the problem of refugees, in spite of their increasing inflow.
- The Foreigners Act, 1946, fails to address the peculiar problems faced by refugees as a class. It also gives unbridled power to the Central government to deport any foreign citizen.
- Further, the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) strikingly excludes Muslims from its purview and seeks to provide citizenship only to Hindu, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Sikh, and Buddhist immigrants persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
- Moreover, India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the key legal documents pertaining to refugee protection.
- In spite of not being a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, India has had a stellar record on the issue of refugee protection. India has a moral tradition for assimilating foreign people and culture.
Challenges Associated With India’s Refugee Policy
Refugees vs. Immigrants
In the recent past, many people from neighboring countries tend to illegally immigrate to India, not because of state persecution but in search of better economic opportunities in India.
Ambiguity in the Framework
The main reason why our policies towards illegal immigrants and refugees are confused is that as per Indian law, both categories of people are viewed as one and the same and are covered under the Foreigners Act, 1946.
The absence of such a legal framework also leads to policy ambiguity whereby India’s refugee policy is guided primarily by ad hocism.
The Government of India has passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). CAA envisages providing citizenship to people who are religious minorities in India’s neighborhood and persecuted by the state.
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